What the Cluck: The Joys of Keeping Backyard Chickens

 

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Raising chickens in your backyard is what everyone is clucking about! With so many benefits for the whole family, our resident Hen-spert gives you a rundown on what you need to know about this hobby.

Raising chickens in urban, suburban, as well as rural backyards has been increasing in popularity.  Laying hens are easy to manage and relatively inexpensive to maintain, they offer a unique form of companionship and they provide the gift of fresh eggs!

Many urban and suburban communities are defining ordinances that allow city-dwellers to embrace this facet of a self-sustainable lifestyle.

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Raising a small flock of laying hens is a wonderful way to incorporate backyard homesteading into the life of family.

  • The simple chores associated with chicken tending can help teach children responsibility and compassion for animals.
  • The experience of raising chickens helps children and adults alike understand and appreciate a direct connection to their food source.
  • Chickens will gladly eat table scraps, just don’t feed them anything moldy or spoiled.
  • When you raise laying hens you always have an extra meal option available. Eggs for breakfast, lunch or supper!
  • A dozen eggs is always a well received gift for friends.
  • Not to mention, chickens are also great pets!

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Chicken Basics – The Necessities:

To get started with chickens you need the following basic supplies:

  • Waterer (We use a 2 gallon galvanized waterer for our full grown chickens.)
  • Roosting area
  • Nesting boxes
  • Pine shavings
  • Chicken grower mash or pellets: feed from 6 weeks to 18 weeks (typically 18% protein)
  • Layer mash or pellets

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Optional:

  • Heated fountain base (for cold climates to prevent the water from freezing)
  • Supplemental light and timer: Chickens lay best with about 14 hours of daylight a day. To optimize egg production, you can add a supplemental light source during the winter months.
  • Oyster shell grit as a supplementary calcium source: This can help if you notice shells are thin
  • Egg basket: for collecting eggs

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Unique Chicken Products:

  • Chicken Harness: These just aren’t for hipsters. Taking your chickens for a walk on a leash lets them explore their space safely… plus, you don’t have to worry about scooping after the pooping.
  • Chicken diapers: You’ll need these for “pampered” indoor chickens. Chicken diapers come with adjustable design and there are five sizes to choose from.
  • Eglu Classic Hen House: Perfect for those starting out in the hobby, this plastic chicken house will look great in your garden. This fox-resistant chicken run is easy to move and comfortably houses two to four birds.
  • Chicken mansions: When your chickens live in nicer digs than you do, well… that’s pretty cool! In her book Gardening With ChickensLisa Steele writes about her experiences with people who take their chicken hobby seriously.

If you have been toying with the idea of raising chickens, I encourage you to give it a try!  You will likely be delighted with the experience, and pleasantly surprised how easy it is to manage your own backyard flock.

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Check out these great resources to help get you started:

Photo credit: oksun70/Bigstock; www.kidsandeggs.com


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